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Biblical Separation

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
August 20, 2021 8:00 am

Biblical Separation

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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August 20, 2021 8:00 am

As the young church in Corinth grew in size, its membership faced new struggles on the path toward holiness, just as believers and churches do today. The Apostle Paul sent the letter we know as II Corinthians to encourage these believers to grow up in their faith. Dr. Boice illuminates all of Paul’s key points, including God’s comfort in affliction; forgiving people who have hurt us; the blessings of generosity; and why God allows thorns in our lives.

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Welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet Ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals featuring the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce for more information please contact us by calling toll-free one 804 88 18 and now the alliance is pleased to present the Bible study our preparing you to think and act biblically been moving rather rapidly through second Corinthians, when we come to knowledge to a section that contains just six verses, we focus on it because these six verses are a major issue and they belong by themselves almost a parenthesis here and what Paul is saying. Some scholars have noted the fact that this is a parenthesis and I've even argued that these verses don't belong here. For that reason, you can see what they're saying if you look at verse 13, Paul says open wide your hearts 11 verse two of chapter 7. Make room for us in your hearts. The second verse picks up on the first of it sets the middle portion off is no textual warrant for saying that this has been put in later and I treated as part of the book yet. I recognize that here is a little portion of the book where Paul is it were breaks away from what is been saying to deal with what was evidently a problem then as now, this problem of separation very great problem been more divisions in the church over this problem and perhaps anything else.

Some people have made a career of its some whole denominations are based upon the principle of separation. Those of you who have seen this recent film witness with it's very sympathetic.

I think portrayal of the Amish people have this matter of separation fresh in mind, because here the whole ethnic block, not far from us here in the state of Pennsylvania who separate from worldliness as they see it all. It's parts including automation automobiles, all those things I would certainly based what they do on this text and then to move, not Westwood East across the river in the Camden and beyond.

We have their church that is characterized by this particular doctrine and which is presided over by a minister who has spent a whole lifetime separating from one body of Christians after another. I've been in many different churches speaking across the country and even in different areas of the world and its characteristic of many churches to have versus up the back of the church, usually behind where the minister stands they say such things as, go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature or there's a reference to Jesus returning. I remember the chapel at Stony Brook on Long Island. Behind the pulpit, where the man stands up to preach on Sunday morning. It says in nice letters that he can't help seeing Sir, we would see Jesus many different verses are adopted by one church for another to characterize what it regards as a particular thrust of this particular church in Jersey that I'm thinking I'll behind the preacher is the text therefore come out from among them and be a separate I was there couple years ago and I had a conversation with the pastor and I learned of the context of that conversation with that text in his judgment, if properly applied, would lead us out of the Presbyterian Church in America which we are nevertheless happily at the present time apart. The question is what is that mean about from among them and be a separate and what are the principles of true biblical separation. I was a big subject, and this is not the only text could be considered, but let me say that this text by itself, that is, these verses certainly contain enough solid principles in this matter to keep us from the kind of extreme errors that we sometimes are found in the church in which it proved to be so harmful. I want to give it to you in the form of four principles of land, we have time or very late tonight because of the questions, and other things also give whatever comment I have time for each of these principles could be elaborated to great length.

Perhaps you want to do that in your own thinking first principle is this you make note you can write it down separation where it involves people because you see the speaks about them, which is people and things which are things my first principle of separation where it involves people is to be between Christians and unbelievers, not between Christians and Christians.

Let me say that again separation where it involves people is to be between Christians and unbelievers, not between Christians and Christians was not obvious.

When you read the text begins in verse 13 do not be yoked together with unbelievers. What is talking about and he spells it out for what do righteousness and wickedness have in common or what fellowship can light have with darkness what harmony is there between Christ and Belial that is a name for Satan. What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever letter agreements is there between the temple of God and idols. Someone is going to say immediately but that doesn't cover all the situations that is true, someone will say, what about the situation in the church where you have to exercise discipline that involve separation of course discipline is a very needed thing and it's something that's lacking in the church of Christ today, but that's a different matter, and even where it's properly practiced. He does conform in some measure this very distinction I making you see for one thing, when you have discipline in the church is operating properly, is not a question. A believer separating from the unbelievers, but it's a question of disciplining one who by his conduct, at least at that moment in time is acting as an unbeliever.

That's what discipline me.

When you exercise discipline in its final extreme. There are different stages of discipline have to be followed and fortunately in the Presbyterian system of governance required can't just discipline. Somebody has to be very carefully done according to the book of order, but in its final extreme when you have done all of the other steps. What finally happens is that the person is barred from the communion service. What is that mean that's not simply judgment which the church says well you been bad and so were not gonna let you come to communion.

Communion is for all believers, the church is saying at that point is that your behavior is inconsistent with Christian conduct, and you cannot pretend to be a Christian, though you may claim to be a Christian act that way, we have to say that that kind of behavior is not practiced by Christians. So as long as that continues your barred from the communion service and your only to come back when that is acknowledged as a sin is repented of and you find cleansing, raise the question also of denominations where the situation becomes so difficult or people who see the Scriptures particular way and want to live by at the have to separate from the denomination here get into an area that really is a problem.

This is something that we ourselves have gone through it all and I suppose I don't have to elaborated a great length, but let me say that when we were facing this. We did that not by any stretch of the imagination abruptly precipitously without thought, but rather something that occupy the attention of the session for a long period of time debated this at length and argue the pros and cons for. I know of at least two years and in some of our thinking. They went back beyond that, and we carefully wrestled through these matters say what we must be concerned with is the unity of the church that is not something to be taken lightly. We ask ourselves the question when must a congregation that wants to remain faithful to the Scripture separate from the church which, in its judgment at that point is not being faithful to the Scriptures. This doesn't concern what individuals do we live in a pluralistic church situation and people go to a different town joined the church not necessarily the same denomination or even in one particular geographic location.

They drift around from church to church. I think that's sometimes a great mistake need to settle down sooner or later they must settle down. We don't have a situation in which we can say well here is one true church. Any individual can go from place to place and what I advised people to do when the go to another community to seek out the most evangelical, most effective church, they can find and plunge in there and be part of its minister. Regardless of what denomination it may be the question we were asking was the question of when we must separate on wanting to desiring to stay bear witness even in a less than desirable situation as long as possible. But when is it no longer possible to do that and be faithful to God at the same time, answer our session came up with.

At that point is that it occurs to points. First point is when church which are part the denomination which are part becomes apostate. Know what that word means. It means when they have so fallen away from Christian truth that they can no longer truly be called a Christian denomination and you see that we put them in the category of second Corinthians 6 because would be a case of unbelievers. Not that there are true believers still lingering on in the situation, but when the church takes the position that is contrary to the essentials of the gospel and is no longer truly Christian as a church. That's the first thing or secondly, Mrs. on the lower level but nevertheless important when the denomination requires individuals or individual congregations to do something which, in their judgment as they seek it out on the basis of Scripture. They find to be contrary to the will and word of God have to be very careful in both of those.

One of the problems in this matter separation is that people justifying their own willfulness bring in terms like apostasy and say well we had to leave because church was apostate was no true church anymore. And of course that may make you feel good but it's not necessarily true that to be very careful when you level the charge of apostasy. Christians do here we ourselves do air air itself, air itself is not apostasy has to be when the church takes a stand which is contrary to the Scriptures, and even so, contrary to the Scriptures in that which is essential to salvation would have to involve such matters as the denial of the incarnation, vicarious atonement, the resurrection, and such things, and the difficulty of course of the very to shoot you churches do that they retain the language even if they begin to depart the time of the Reformation. Of course, that was the case, the Roman church was maintaining a view of justification which involve works which if one held to all Catholics don't even understand it but which if they held to. It is a false gospel that comes under the anathema the Paul pronounces in Galatians of the reformer separated that point properly project to be very careful when you say denomination is apostate and then secondly hits when you're required to do something contrary to the word of God. That's what affected us say that point to.

You have to be careful because who's to say that your particular interpretation of Scripture, especially if it's a minor point is rights in the view of the denomination of which are part necessarily as long something you have to search through carefully before God in our case, I think we had a situation where the denomination wasn't particularly concerned whether their view was in the Scripture. And that's the problem we ran up against. It was a problem for us of being faithful to God or listening to the word of man. At that point you have to go if you make a mistake, will you confess it before God. You say that's a mistake you know we we are sorry but we have to operate as best we know how and we don't believe we did in that case, but again I say you have to be very very careful of the first point I make is that separation I repeated word involves people as to be between Christians and unbelievers, not between Christians and Christians. The only possible exception to that is when other Christians. We judge them to be that put us in a situation where we have to obey God rather than man on the second principle is this separation is to be on to God before it involves separation from either people or things.

This is in the text as well because what Paul is talking about here is us being temples of the living God.

Verse 16 God said, I will live with them and walk among them.

I will be their God and they will be my people say before we think of separating, whether that's a separation from other people who at that point we would judge to be non-Christians or whether it's a separation from things which we would judge to be antithetical to our Christian profession before either of those must be a separation under God see the reason for that is that if we forget that the separation were called upon to have is under God we become narrow and critical and self-righteous and judgmental what other people are concerned that we have an exalted opinion of ourselves because we say. After all, I'm a better Christian than they are now.

I may be the only true Christian life because after all I don't do this don't do that.

I don't do the other thing and look at those reprobates.

They do it all go to good Dutch country where our assistant up here Mr. flickered is from you find that they loved to smoke their pipes and cigars.

Can you imagine Christian people doing anything as ungodly as that pops no unclean thing, says the Bible come out and I will receive you, your people to think that way and you see that just is tolerable to say when it gets to its extreme, that the most important thing in the Christian life is not about which God is most pleased is the fact that I don't smoke cigars and yet I can beat my wife I can cheat on my income taxes I can gossip I can be an absolute scoundrel. You see how that works. That's why when separation is spoken of in Scripture it's generally spoken of as being separated and God what sanctification is all about rectification isn't the list of things we don't do sanctification is consecrated action. It's being God's man of God's woman where you become that. Well then, you see many things can fall away, but you don't find yourself being proud about that the Watson things I don't do and lots of trouble. I don't get into but because I'm not capable of getting into it, but because I'm just too busy to get into it in the Lord's work say when that happens, then you don't do things in somebody else does.

You look at them and say well there poor specimen of Christianity, look what they do not even thinking about those things because usually what you want to do is please God and you're glad where they try to please God and you rejoice in all of that together. The apostle Paul who wrote this. You know, is a very man who was criticized by his Jewish patriarchs because he sat down and H with the Gentiles, that is the eight nonkosher food but who defended that saying at one occasion he had learned to be all things to all man. He was a Gentile, with the Gentiles and he was a Jew with the Jew or Greek with the Greek city was a Roman with the Romans and compromised it didn't mean I like to sing in Roman ways. When I'm with Romans and I like to sing in Greek ways, and I would Greeks it wasn't talking about that what he was saying is I want to serve God. I want to minister to people.

That's what I'm concerned about, so I'm not going to allow these little shibboleths please do's and don'ts to get in the way of my ministry. That's a great measure of Christian maturity, but the apostle Paul is mature and furthermore he was apostle and apostle sets an example for us precisely at that point. The third principle that I want to give is this separation where it does occur, must nevertheless be radical so you can hardly miss that either the words themselves in body and come out from among them and be separate. There is a radical statement touch.

No unclean thing, I will receive you, that's a radical statement and so were all the things ago before. What do righteousness and wickedness have in common. What fellowship can light have with darkness what harmony is there between Christ and Belial see we do nevertheless have a problem at this point and we have to acknowledge that the problem we have at this point is that we do nevertheless live in the world. So although we desire to be instruments of righteousness. We live in a world of wickedness.

Although we want to be lights.

We live in a world of darkness. Although we want to be vehicles of truth live in a world of falsehood and error and it is not possible, it's perfectly evident that it's not possible in the ultimate sense in every single situation to be separate what is the main how can you have a radical separation from the principles of wickedness and unrighteousness in darkness and at the same time be in the world is the Lord Jesus Christ wanted us to play.

How can you be radical and in the world all at the same time, let me suggest that the degree to which we are radical in our separation must depend upon the intimacy of the relationship. I think that's a self-evident principle, but let me spell it out all the relationships we have in life. The most intimate is marriage and the most intimate union you have the real yoking together to use the term that Paul does is to be found preeminently in marriage more than anything else.

Now if we take this principle of separation radical separation. It must certainly mean without any compromise whatsoever that a Christian is not to marry a non-Christian because what do righteousness and wickedness have in common and so there's just no compromise. At that point. What I mean by radical, you can say well you know they're on the way. Or, well, I think they want to be Christians know you just can't do that if the person is going to be converted. I got to be converted before the marriage are not converted don't get married.

Sometimes God is gracious and save the person afterwards, but you can count on that.

And for every example that a minister can point to a black happening.

There are tens dozens go the other way, where instead, the unbeliever drags a Christian down in life becomes miserable thing indeed.

We say to those of you are single and who have thought about marriage would prefer to be married is much better to be single than the be in that kind of a relationship because, among other things remaining single you are at that point at least being obedient to the Lord, take a matter of worship. Now that's a little bit different dissidents there you have the community of God, you have the people of God church of God worshiping in the name of God, but we don't exclude non-Christians to come into our services so we want to be pure. At that point is much as we can be. But excluding unbelievers. We want them there were. They can hear the gospel take a communion service. There is another matter. When you come to the communion service you come professing faith in Jesus Christ to come in a visible way demonstrating before everybody was looking on that that body is broken for you and you participate in it by eating of the bread and that blood is poured out for you and you participated in it by bringing on the line some very serious matter. So we say when we have the communion service quite often really should be set all the time communion services for believers only anybody was a Presbyterian or Baptist or Methodist Episcopalian or Pentecostal to make any difference as long as a believer is to come on our table at the Lord's table, but you must be believer to come in so we practice it that way. You see in the church we have a diversity of people, including unbelief, but at the point of the communion service. We require faithfulness. Take a matter of business where you work there is where that principle of intimacy enters and if you work for an insurance company. I don't know how you could practice separation in a radical way because you all kinds of people got Christians and non-Christians and atheists and everything you in a separate very does not go to work in that business, but suppose you want to enter into a partnership with somebody and have your own business and you can have a partner. There's a point at which the principal would Ayn Rand do you want to enter into a partnership in the business with somebody who's not a Christian. I'm not saying that in every case that necessarily must be excluded. I think in life as we live it with all its complexity and with its thousands and thousands of variables. These are situations that have to be faced. One by one the principal I'm establishing is that the more intimate the relationship is the closer it is more radically the principal must be applied fourth and final principle which I'd like to give is this separation is a continuing and not merely once for all need in the text I have for that is the last, but we've read second Corinthians 71. You see I just been progressing through the passage on the basis of what these words say verse one of chapter 7 says, since we have these promises dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Can anything be clear and adverse and the fact that separationist characterize our lives say were to purify ourselves. The Greek text has the sense of keep on purifying ourselves grow in grace and as it says in the last phrase perfecting holiness working on it throughout all the days of our lives to say as long as we think of separation as involving a particular thing especially a secondary thing we get the idea well if we've separated from them more if we no longer do that well then we've got it made. We sort of moved up to a second higher level of Christianity where all the saints dwell in. But we don't have to worry about separation anymore is not the way the apostle Paul is thinking of which makes me think is really not so much thinking of those great big crises in life but rather of simple growth as we try increasingly to be God's people do we do that we do that by looking to Jesus trying to be like him, trying to please them trying to serve him. As we do that well in these other things begin to fall in their place live in a particular situation we make a mistake if in a particular situation we hair. If in a particular situation we get into a relationship that we shouldn't be in if we really want to please the Lord, and we really wanted to do that, even at the time he made the mistake that God is a marvelous way overriding the errors we make at that point I'm not speaking about willful errors. Personal enters into a marriage with an unbeliever, knowing that they ought not to do it is no promise, no assurance of God is to bless them and redeem the situation. But if we really want to please him just a question of a mistake or misjudgment.

God is a marvelous way of overwriting that working in our lives for good.

I think the great principle of separation is what you find in the 12th chapter of Hebrews 1st versus which I close the author of that book says. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let's throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let's fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith and for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart spray our father, we confess that in this area. We have many personal problems and as we look at the church we recognize the many difficulties that are there many divisions, many of which shouldn't exist.

Others are contaminated by all kinds of human imperfections and sins father in spite of the act, as we look at our own lives.

What we want to say is that we want to be your people above all, we want to be separated under you want to be used by you would be faithful to you.

We want to love you for the teach us how to do that and then by your grace, enable these other matters fall into a proper place. Give us wisdom where these great decisions of our lives are concerned.

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